This Friday, under Executive Order 13,692, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC pa los panas) sanctioned four more officials and former officials of the Venezuelan government, associated with corruption and repression in the country. Treasury secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said that Nicolás and his inner circle “continue to put their own interests above those of the Venezuelan people,” and that this action underscores the United States’ resolve to hold Maduro and others engaged in corruption in Venezuela accountable, calling all concerned parties around the world to join them and “further isolate this oppressive regime.”
The OFAC list now includes: Aragua governor and former Food minister Rodolfo Marco Torres; former Bolívar governor Francisco Rangel Gómez; ZODI Capital commander Fabio Zavarse Pabón and Gerardo Izquierdo Torres, executive secretary of the presidential commission on Border Affairs.
Later, Treasury Dept. spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted that Armed Forces members can’t expect immunity, but they can avoid sanctions by respecting the rule of law and changing their behaviour. Foreign minister Jorge Arreaza also took to Twitter, saying that the Armed Forces won’t bow to any foreign power.
You may recall that MUD parties agreed to rotate the National Assembly’s speaker’s chair. Acción Democrática took the role during the first period with Henry Ramos Allup; then came Primero Justicia with Julio Borges and now it’s Un Nuevo Tiempo’s turn, but even though chavista lawmakers stopped showing up to sessions almost a year ago, they’re having problems approving the new Board, with tensions taking hold and disagreements expressed with considerable intensity.
Allegedly, UNT chose Omar Barboza to head the AN by consensus. Even if that were true, the event didn’t have any of the atmosphere of previous installations. The reaction on social media centred on the Legislative Branch’s uselessness in the face of the combined efforts of the TSJ and the ANC, which restricted the AN to the point that their only value is being the only institution recognized by other nations and international bodies. I’m being generous when I say Barboza’s speech was predictable; with reasonable goals but no explanation on how to make them work.
For 72 hours
Nicolás ordered the shutdown of all air and sea transport to Aruba, Curazao and Bonaire for 72 hours, claiming he did it to defend Venezuela’s economic interests. He also urged the governments of these islands to implement the measures he’s been demanding in recent years, because the dramatic scarcity we’re suffering is allegedly caused by smugglers.
“I didn’t want to take a measure like this, but I’m even willing to implement an even more radical measure,” said Nicolás, before demanding renewed efforts to establish “a healthy trade” with these islands and offering “full guarantees” of transport for Venezuelans who are currently in them, as well as for the citizens of Aruba, Curazao and Bonaire who are currently in Venezuela, without explaining such guarantees or how he’d make them possible.
Nicolás is a genius. So much so that this Friday, he made it clear that he’ll try to get dollars from Venezuelans who left the country fleeing from his government. He announced the creation of a new system of currency allocation that allows families to send financial support replacing the current Dicom, which hasn’t sold dollars to private entities since August, 2017.
Speaking of financial support is acknowledging the dimension of the diaspora and with it, trying to create a new revenue mechanism. Nicolás wants the BCV to get the proposal for the “new” Dicom system early on Monday; another modification to the FX controls imposed by chavismo in 2003, without touching the protected exchange rate that the government keeps for itself, and extraordinary source of corruption. He didn’t talk about yuans, rubles or rupees, nor did he establish the connection between the shutdown of currency allocations and shortages.
The petro, again
Seemingly clueless that cryptocurrencies are mined rather than issued, Nicolás announced the issuance of 100 million petros, the debt bond that equals the value of an oil barrel (currently $59), according to him. He also convened the first national meeting of petro miners for January 14, when he’ll reveal the Petro White Paper: the birth certificate of a non-existent cryptocurrency!, promising to install special mining areas across the country.
He claimed that whoever holds a petro will get a virtual wallet. If this was true, then it would mean the creation of a parallel currency and, even though Niocolás has said from the start that the petro is meant to sidesteps the financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. against his government, his level of ignorance on the matter is so obvious, that few could take is an effective mechanism.
The Constitution establishes that Nicolás must present an accountability speech before the National Assembly. He broke this rule in 2017 and gave his speech before the same TSJ that nullified all of Parliament’s authority, since it’s the only institution that the Administration doesn’t control.
Yesterday, the ANC called on him to give his speech before them -a proposal made by Cilia Flores, Nicolás’ wife-, because that’s what being chavismo-imposed superpower is for, usurping legislative functions and stalling the writing of a new Constitution, the only thing they should be doing. Obviously, the proposal was unanimously approved, so Nicolás won’t give an accountability speech, he’ll just talk for hours before a room full of lackeys that will shout slogans and applaud his unverifiable achievements.
Controlled and spontaneous lootings
Sundde calls their crackdown on shops “inspections”, and they use them to control, use and impose their “authority” to carry out a sort of controlled lootings, some kind of exhausts for the general tension caused by shortages and hyperinflation. Yesterday, they imposed their list of “fair” prices to supermarket chain Gamma, which won’t be able to replenish products after such a tremendous loss.
But there were also spontaneous lootings in Caicara del Orinoco (Bolívar State); in a PDVAL in Trujillo; in several stores of the municipal market of Puerto La Cruz (Anzoátegui) and in a PDVAL warehouse in Zulia. In Caracas, there were looting attempts in a couple of supermarkets located in Terrazas del Ávila and Montalbán.
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